The Murphy's Irish Open moves to Fota Island in the beautiful city of Cork, home of Murphy's Brewery, for the first time this week with Sweden's Patrik Sjöland defending the title.
Sjöland claimed his second European Tour title with his victory over the magnificent links at Ballybunion 12 months ago when he closed with a one under par 70 to finish two clear of his friend and countryman Fredrik Jacobson.
Sjöland is joined in the world-class field by no fewer than five Major Champions - Seve Ballesteros, Paul Lawrie, Sandy Lyle, José Maria Olazábal and Ian Woosnam - along with seven time Volvo Order of Merit winner Colin Montgomerie, who has twice won the title.
Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley lead the Irish challenge in their bid to become the first winner of their national Championship since John O'Leary captured the title at Portmarnock in 1982.
Indeed both Harrington and McGinley tasted success on the original layout at Fota Island with Harrington winning the Irish Amateur Open in 1995 and McGinley winning the Smurfit Irish PGA Championship in 1997.
Developed in 1993, the course was originally designed by Senior British Open champion, Christy O'Connor Jnr, and Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup Captain, Peter McEvoy.
In 1998 the course was purchased by the Killeen Group, owners of the Mount Juliet resort in Kilkenny, and under the direction of Jeff Howes, who originally worked with Jack Nicklaus at Mount Juliet, the course has been significantly redesigned. The course re-opened in September 1999 after an 18 month, £2.2 million programme which saw new routing for eight of the holes and the rebuilding of all 18 greens and tees.
Dr. Tim Mahony, Chairman of Killeen Investments, said: "We have invested major resources in terms of money and time in significantly upgrading Fota. Our ultimate objectives were two fold; firstly to produce a course which was up to European Tour standard and secondly, and just as importantly, a course which would be a joy to play for golfers of all handicaps. We certainly believe we have achieved the first objective and we now look forward to the public's reaction."
The redesign brings the extensive water and the abundance of magnificent trees more into play. Furthermore, the rebuilding of all of the greens uses a more subtle approach to contouring to make them more receptive.